J&K: Clash among militant groups exposes rift in Valleyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/jk-clash-among-militant-groups-exposes-rift-in-valley-5805832/

J&K: Clash among militant groups exposes rift in Valley

A commander of the Islamic State Jammu Kashmir (ISJK), which operates under the banner of Wilayah Al Hind, was killed and a Hizbul militant seriously injured in the gunfight in Anantnag district Wednesday.

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Indian Army personnel in J&K Friday. (Express File Photo/Shuaib Masoodi)

The fight between indigenous militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and a group associated with the global Islamic State has triggered the first direct clash involving the three in South Kashmir.

A commander of the Islamic State Jammu Kashmir (ISJK), which operates under the banner of Wilayah Al Hind, was killed and a Hizbul militant seriously injured in the gunfight in Anantnag district Wednesday. The injured militant was later arrested by J&K Police.

Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior police officer in South Kashmir said: “We have arrested a terrorist belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen, who was wounded in the firefight. The fight started because of some issue regarding weapons. The injured terrorist is in hospital.”

He said there are “four to five terrorists associated with ISJK in South Kashmir”. “This is a very small group of ISJK and I don’t think they can withstand the pressure of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar. This is the first such incident in South Kashmir and now one of the ISJK terrorists, who was part of the clash, has issued a video regarding the incident,” he said.

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The clash took place inside apple orchards at Sirhama village in Bijbehara late Wednesday night. “The ISJK terrorist killed in the shootout has been identified as Adil Das of Waghama Bijbehara while the injured Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist is Arif Hussain Bhat of Larkipora Anantnag,’’ the officer said.

He said there were “three terrorists belonging to ISJK while four or more Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar terrorists” were involved in the skirmish. “There was firing from both sides,’’ he said.

The ISJK has issued a video in Kashmiri on the incident. “The man who has issued the statement has been identified as ISJK terrorist Khateeb Das, who is apparently related to the killed terrorist,’’ the officer said.

Police sources said Adil Das was a Lashkar militant before switching to Islamic State. They said Lashkar wanted Adil to return their gun, which triggered the fight. While Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar have been silent on the incident, the ISJK video accused them of tricking their commander into believing they had come to join ISJK.

“The tragedy that befell us happened because of the spying of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar. These are Pakistan’s dirty tricks and (Hizb chief in Kashmir) Riyaz Naiku’s dirty tricks. We will give you proof. They tricked Adil Das into believing that they were going to join Islamic State and swear allegiance to Islamic State (chief) Abu Bakr Baghdadi… After martyring Adil, they opened a burst of fire at (another ISJK man) Turabi (who was there) and it hit their own associate. They are apostates and are fighting for apostate Pakistani state here,’’ the video statement said. The ISJK video also accused Hizbul Mujahideen of killing several other militants.

There has been growing friction between local militant groups and affiliates of global terror outfits in Kashmir. Both Hizbul Mujahideen and the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference has said that there is no role for global outfits like Islamic State and Al Qaida in Kashmir.

While Hizbul Mujahideen, which has a presence only in J&K, advocates accession to Pakistan, the IS and Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), an affiliate of Al Qaeda with only a few members, have global ambitions. They have vowed to fight Pakistan and local militant outfits.

Though the people of Kashmir have generally stayed away from the radical ideology of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda — only one youth studying in Australia joined Islamic State in the last five years — the ISJK and Ansar have little presence in the Valley.

Islamic State flags first emerged in Srinagar during protests a few years earlier. But it announced its presence for the first time when a local militant Mugais Mir, who was earlier with Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen, was killed in an encounter in Zakura in Srinagar’s outskirts on November 18, 2017.

A day after the killing, Al Amaq, which claims to be the media channel of Islamic State globally, identified Mir as their man. In March 2018, when a Srinagar engineering student with ISJK, Eisa Fazili, was killed, a confrontation broke out during his funeral which led to a heated debate on social media with several confronting the idea of the emergence of these global groups in Kashmir.